Oh boy, do I have an epic regret story in response to Fandango’s Provocative Question: “If you could have a second chance at just one event in your life, what would you choose? What would you do differently?”
It was 9th grade, and I was in chorus just before class started, talking to a friend. For the purpose of this story, I’ll call said friend “Melody” because we were both in the alto section and I like irony.
It was actually kinda odd that Melody and I were friends in the first place. I was this smart, dorky, goody-goody with no perceptible theatrical or musical talent. Melody didn’t excel in academics and she had a bit of a bad reputation, but she definitely had talent and was often cast in shows and sang solos in the concerts.
The one thing we did have common was that we both wanted to be famous for our performing talents. I don’t even remember having a conversation with her about this, it’s like we just perceived it. And it was true- I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I knew I wanted to be famous. Keep in mind that this was circa 1999 when you actually needed talent and achievement to be famous vs. 2022 when all you need is Instagram. It sounds completely ridiculous now, but back then, I just wanted to be famous so bad!
Even more odd, despite all evidence to the contrary, Melody seemed to believe in my talent.
Melody turned to me.
Melody: Hey, guess what? I heard about an audition for a part in a movie. The movie is based on a book and you’d be perfect as one of the characters!
Melody: Yes! This role is so perfect for you. Read the book and I will give you the info.
I read the book. And Melody was right – there was a character in the book who was just like me! Book-smart, nerdy, know-it-all. Even the physical description of the character matched pretty well. That wasn’t exactly flattering, as this character was not described as beautiful. But in this case, the description was apt and oddly an advantage.
There were differences – the character in the book was approximately 11 and I was 14 and in high school – but I was short, flat-chested (at the time), and regularly mistaken for being a lot younger. So the age gap seemed surmountable.
What Was Insurmountable…
The insurmountable part was everything else.
The audition turned out to be more of a casting call, the first step of which involved sending a headshot to a casting director overseas. I didn’t have a headshot. I had no idea how to get a headshot. I didn’t even know how to mail something internationally. (Remember, I was a sheltered, naive 14-year-old.)
I couldn’t imagine telling my parents about this opportunity. They’d say no. I couldn’t imagine doing this behind their back, because the logistics involved in getting a headshot and mailing it (keep in mind I didn’t have a driver’s license yet) while maintaining a believable cover story seemed impossible. Not to mention, in the unlikely event that I got the part, I couldn’t imagine how filming (also overseas) was going to work. I had no idea how to take this opportunity that was straight out of my wildest dreams and fit it into my current reality.
So I didn’t. I didn’t follow up. I didn’t send a photo for this casting call. I regret this very much.
Did I mention that this was for the role of Hermione in Harry Potter?
Let’s be honest – I would not have gotten the part. Sure, at the time, I thought my fake British accent was great. Brits reading this post, stop laughing. Every American thinks their fake British accent is great. We’re wrong, but this is what we Americans think. But J.K. Rowling was pretty adamant that the cast had to be British. (I didn’t know that at the time.)
On top of that, the casting directors, who were already concerned about a cast of potentially rapidly aging child actors, were not going to cast a 14-year-old, even if she appeared to be 10. And that’s assuming that my headshot wouldn’t be rejected on the spot (not that Hermione was described as a beauty in the book, but I have never been photogenic.) And even if all of the above-mentioned weren’t an issue, keep in mind that I had no discernable acting talent.
This may or may not be related, but I proceeded to spend the rest of high school sleepwalking in a depressed fog. That’s the best way I can describe it. There was no good reason for this – no traumatic experiences or circumstances, my parents were lovely people, no one did anything terrible to me. I barely remember anything about high school except for depression sleepwalking. But this may be unrelated.
To this day, I hate the Harry Potter movies. And not for a normal person’s reason, like the antisemitic goblins or J.K. Rowling’s statements about transgender. I saw some of the movies, but I couldn’t really watch or enjoy them.
To this day, it still kills me to read stories like that J.K. Rowling was initially underwhelmed by Hermione’s casting because Emma Watson was too pretty. Not that J.K. Rowling would have been happier casting a talentless American teenager instead, but I can assure you that “too pretty” wouldn’t have been an issue if it were me.
When Emma Watson posed topless for Vanity Fair, I reminded myself that I would die of embarrassment if I had a topless photo in Vanity Fair. And also, that I was not hot and no one wanted to see that.
It still kills me to read the bad reviews of Emma Watson’s performance in the live-action Beauty and the Beast – I don’t have that many talents but my Disney Princess singing voice is pretty good (Update: You don’t have to take my word for it; listen here and decide for yourself) and playing a Disney Princess?!?! I mean, that would have been amazing.
Perhaps it is just as well. The nature of fame changed from “recognition of talent and achievement” to “stalk every aspect of your life and take upskirt photos on your eighteenth birthday” to “post your own nudes on Instagram before someone else threatens you with them“.
I’ve had a good life filled with undeserved good circumstances and blessings. I married someone who is paranoid when it comes to privacy, and yet who is fine with me keeping this overly honest public blog. I don’t have $70 million (!), but I have a career I don’t absolutely hate that sounds cool to other people and that pays the bills and then some. Life could be worse.
If my life were an inspirational self-help book – which would never happen because I’m nearly forty and have done nothing of value with my life, and I’m too much of a pessimist for a self-help book – this incident would be a turning point. I’d learn my lesson and from this point forward, I’d take those chances on auditions, job applications, everything, so I wouldn’t have the regret of missing out. I wouldn’t have another “I could have been in the Harry Potter movies” moment.
Of course, this did not happen. At this very moment, I’m sitting on an unsubmitted job application, a job for which I’m basically guaranteed an interview for, well, I don’t really know why. The point is that, no, I did not manage to internalize the lesson of taking chances like this. That’s the other thing I’d do differently.